First Engineers (FE) is a young organization with young leaders. We have created a management guideline for other leaders in these COVID-19 times. We are sharing this with founders and business leaders who could use some inspiration and tactics.
1. Communication Is Key - Do It Right
Clear and consistent information
In these times there is a sense of uncertainty at all levels. Our simple and challenging task is to ensure that all are focused on how we can impact the situation. We must therefore be super clear in our messaging and lead by example when it comes to prioritization and work.
Be transparent and communicate early
Be transparent In your communication and quickly address changes in the organization. If you succeed with this, you will also boost productivity, as the organization trusts that they will receive information fast. At FE we have set a minimum of 24 hours from a decision being made in crisis, to this being communicated to the organization. 24 hours gives time to let the decision sink in, and where we can pivot or further the plan with relevant parties. This also helps you get the organization behind you and your decisions.
2. Structure the Process - Provide Clarity and Manage Expectations
Set up all-hands meetings
Update the whole organization on the impact. By doing so, we involve the employees at a level where the situation is clear to them. We have also set this meeting to route questions or concerns regarding our decreasing revenue and job security for our employees.
At FE we have created a Corona Q&A to answer all questions related to how this is impacting FE financially, our runway, our temporary lay off process and employee rights and practicalities for those laid off.
Set clear direction
This is done by setting firm expectations, and ensuring that everyone knows what is expected of them week by week. You should take into account the totality of the situation, and that you are acting proactive, responsively and being overly hands-on with your team. This is not the time for excuses and underperformance. In this event, we correct immediately at an individual level..
Team meetings:Corona should be off-topic in these meetings. This is game-time and where clear targets and expectations are set for the week.
Close out meetings:Is where we evaluate the individual targets of the week, and assess the team performance. Don´t shame collectively, but do expectation management and inform if individuals are holding your team back. Be direct and honest about it. Re-set expectations and get confirmation that the employee understands the expectations set. Don't make it personal.
3. You Are a Leader - Time to Bring the A Game
Remove emotions and act objectively as a representative of the company
At the very end it comes down to the company managing through the crisis and that we mitigate as much loss and (permanent) employee layoffs as possible.
There is also the time after. If we make uninformed decisions, or get emotional in our decision making, we might be set back several years, and/or lose key talent. That being said, make sure that you communicate with understanding, transparency and compassion to your employees. You need them to understand your tough decisions and that you all unite behind the plan to get back on track.
Be firm, precise and transparent
A crisis creates uncertainty and fear;This is a natural time for speculation and rumours. It is also natural that people double the amount of questions. This is a direct kill to our focus, so make sure that when you get questions that you are not able to answer, to inform that you will get back to them in the all-hands or planned team-meeting. Be clear on how information will be given and when questions non-task related will be provided. Further; over communicate that in the meanwhile we will focus on what we can impact: project delivery or cold calling.
Lead by example
This is the time where we need you all to be bar raisers. This is what got you here, to a management role. Make sure to align focus with upper management on how you can impact. A Manager at FE has two primary focuses in these COVID-19 times; 1. Sales 2. Project-and team management. We have also informed the management that we cannot sugarcoat the situation - workload will increase.
What does this mean and what does FE expect. These are uncertain times, where the consequences of us not being hands-on will enforce us to do layoffs.
Mentality: Game-face on, positive and constructive. Leaders need to stay positive and constructive. Negative thinking will not take us through this challenge.
Planning: At FE we have systems to track productivity and capacity. No system is bullet proof, so we have asked for weekly status of team utilization.
Engaged leadership: Our first and foremost purpose is to engage and motivate the employees, at the same time having as much control of the project situation within our teams. Management styles are different, and those used to giving a lot of autonomy might not be able to work close enough in the details. Be invested at a detailed enough level with the team. Celebrate small wins and success. Create a “WE”mentality, instead of a governing authority.